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Water restrictions get tougher

by Dolores Hamilton
The city council approved the sale of Iowa Park Economic Development Corporation’s (EDC) spec building, and addressed the need for additional water use restrictions while meeting in special session Monday night.

EDC has sold the building it had constructed five years ago in the city’s industrial park to Affiliated Energy Products, Inc. (AEP) for $400,000. The company currently has 22 employees and will move into the building around November 15.

Council member Lori Shierry asked, “What did we pay to build this building?” City Manager Mike Price answered, saying it cost about $750,000.
“Unfortunately when they built it that was the price at that time,” he said. “The building was evaluated or appraised at $750,000, but because of the downturn in the economy it is now appraised at $354,000 and includes the land as well.”

David Owen, the city’s Economic Development Director, told the council that based on a value of $500,000 on the building on Jan. 1, 2013, the city will realize $3,700 a year in taxes and the school district $6,400. “That’s just on real estate alone,” he said. “If everything remains constant, the city and school will realize almost $170,000 in taxes alone over a 10-year period.

Another council member, Sherrie Williams, talked about the added benefits of the company’s employees. “Those folks are going to be in our community either eight or 12 hours a day. They will be spending money at our retail stores, our gas stations and restaurants,” she said. “Some of them that don’t live in Iowa Park may choose to live here and if they have children, that will be a extra benefit for our schools.”

The council voted unanimously to approve the sale of the building to AEP.
In other business, Price said that many city residents are not complying with the water use restrictions put in place in June.

Iowa Park purchases its water from Wichita Falls, and when the lakes that supply their water dropped below the combined level of 50 percent, they notified all of their wholesale customers to reduce their monthly consumption by a minimum of 15 percent.

Water use restrictions were put in place at that time for Iowa Park’s water customers. Monday night Price told the council, “We’re not where we need to be.

We need to take steps or otherwise we’re going to face curtailment by the City of Wichita Falls.” He said the lakes are now down to just over 45 percent capacity. “Right now we’ve got one day (of the week) that we’re purchasing less than two million gallons a day,” Price added. “We need to make the reduction Wichita Falls has requested and should be using in the neighborhood of 1.8 or 1.9 millions gallons a day.”

Several ways to further reduce water consumption were discussed, and the council agreed on the following temporary restrictions:

• Landscape watering utilizing a handheld hose with an automatic shut-off, a bucket or watering can is permitted any time on the water customer’s assigned watering day only.

• Increase in rates per gallon after the 2000 gal. minimum.

• Step up enforcement of restrictions; violators will be fined.

The temporary water rate increases will go into effect with the September billing cycle. The other changes are effective immediately.

The restrictions will be explained in greater detail in an accompanying story in this week’s issue of the Leader.

During the budget workshop portion of the meeting, council members discussed the latest drafts of the General Fund and Utility Fund budgets. Both are in the black, but contain no salary increases or capital outlay improvements.

Williams asked if there was anything to cut from the budget so they could give pay raises, and Price replied, “Not without cutting positions.”

Recommendations from the Salary and Benefit Committee were discussed, and the council decided to give each employee up to a $200 payroll deduction for clothing and equipment, two additional holidays - the Friday following Thanksgiving and Presidents Day, and an appreciation luncheon served by council members.

Price said that the effective tax rate that would generate the same taxes as last year is 74.5-cents, but the council agreed to leave the tax rate at 74-cents per $100 valuation.

At the last council meeting in September, the council will adopt the budgets, set the tax rate, and set the new water and sewer rates that will go into effect in October.

At the beginning of the meeting, Mayor Dan Fears announced that he had decreed Friday as a “Day of Prayer in Iowa Park.” There will be a gathering to pray for rain at 7:30 a.m. Friday in the amphitheater in City Park. All citizens are invited to this meeting.

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